O’Rourke links Trump’s words to Nazi Germany

Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks during a campaign event in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Justin Wan/Sioux City Journal via AP)

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is comparing the rhetoric used by President Donald Trump to describe immigrants to the rhetoric used in Nazi Germany.

At a town hall in Iowa on Thursday, O’Rourke called out “the rhetoric of a president who not only describes immigrants as rapists and criminals but as animals and an infestation,” in response to a question on how he would address attacks from Republicans.

The former congressman from Texas says, “Now, I might expect someone to describe another human being as an infestation in the Third Reich. I would not expect that in the United States of America.”

O’Rourke says he will avoid using similar rhetoric because “if we descend into that pettiness and meanness and those personal attacks, I’m not sure that we can win.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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O’Rourke & Sanders: Opposites chasing young voters

Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke leaves the stage after speaking during the National Action Network Convention in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In the growing Democratic presidential field, they seem like a study in opposites.

One’s 77, a democratic socialist from the U.S.-Canada border state of Vermont, who exudes a curmudgeonly grumpiness and bursts with detailed policy proposals. The other’s a boyish 46-year-old native of the U.S.-Mexico border city of El Paso, Texas, who livestreams his skateboarding prowess and offers hopeful but vague paeans to tolerance and cooperation.

Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke may represent different poles among the dozen-plus Democrats vying for the White House, but they have key commonalities that now inject special tension into their rivalry as they ramp up their campaigns.

Both lead the pack in fundraising and have built substantial campaign treasuries on thousands of small donors nationwide rather than using the more traditional model of a small core of major financial backers.

They also strike chords with the same part of the electorate. In their last races, each rose on a strong appeal to young voters.

Now, though, it’s not clear both can exploit their strengths while going head-to-head.

Already, they find themselves recruiting some of the same campaign talent, with a few veterans of Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid having signed on this time with O’Rourke.

While other candidates in the 2020 race have natural connections to other parts of the Democratic voting base, Sanders, a U.S. senator, and O’Rourke, a former congressman, could find themselves in more of a zero-sum contest for the same turf. Both will be in Iowa this weekend campaigning for the upper hand.

“If Bernie begins to surge, the Beto people will largely go there. The opposite’s true, too,” said Jim Hightower a former Texas agriculture commissioner who was a top state Sanders supporter in 2016 but also among the first to counsel O’Rourke on his near-upset in November of Sen. Ted Cruz.

This week, Sanders announced that he raised $18.2 million in 41 days of campaigning through March 31. O’Rourke countered that he’d collected $9.4 million in an 18-day period, or $520,000-plus daily.

Matt Bennett, co-founder of the Third Way, a centrist Washington think tank, said Sanders finds himself more hemmed in than when he ran a surprisingly tight race in 2016 against Hillary Clinton.

“He has plenty of competition in the authenticity category now,” including from Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, who also have attracted strong online fundraising.

Still, Bennett said, O’Rourke may prove the stiffest test to Sanders given that his donor base is so similar — a key metric for campaign strength so early in the electoral cycle.

“What you’re going to see is there is not a clean ideological explanation for where people end up,” Bennett said. “It’s going to be who speaks to me, who inspires me with their rhetoric, with their persona, with their passion.”

Other major candidates in the Democratic presidential field — which includes two African Americans, a half dozen women, a Latino and a gay candidate — have obvious inroads with key ethnic, racial and demographic groups that lean Democratic.

But Sanders and O’Rourke have shown they can consistently draw throngs of young voters to their rallies.

Sanders’ crusty passion — and willingness to fight for policy ideas that seemed far-fetched, even if it wreaked havoc on both parties — appealed to 2016 voters who were sometimes less than a third his age.

O’Rourke, who was still in high school when Sanders entered Congress in 1991, has whipped up enthusiasm by preaching optimistic bipartisanship to meet challenges like climate change.

Texas’ 2018 midterms — which included O’Rourke’s Senate race — drew nearly 1.1 million voters between ages 18 and 29, or 235% more than the state’s midterms in 2014, in no small part due to his campaign.

As the nation’s population gets older, young voters are seen as increasingly important to Democratic candidates.

“The Democratic Party’s age profile is really defying the aging pattern of the country overall,” said Alec Tyson of the Pew Research Center, which specializes in election analysis. “They’re about as young as they were 10 years ago, which is remarkable because the country’s not.”

Pew data indicates that millennial voters born between 1981 and 1996 have had a Democratic tilt since reaching adulthood.

In the early weeks of his campaign, O’Rourke has prioritized visiting colleges. He’s impressed some previous Sanders supporters with the 30-year gap between them.

“I think it’s really important to get people excited, and I think that’s what Beto does, and I’m not sure Bernie does anymore,” said Meaghan O’Connor, 21, a Sanders voter in 2016 who attended an O’Rourke campus rally at Penn State University last month.

Both Sanders and O’Rourke have worked to reach other demographic groups. Sanders has recalled his days as a civil rights activist at the University of Chicago, and O’Rourke has made three visits since 2017 to historically black Texas Southern University in Houston.

Despite having overlapping strengths, O’Rourke and Sanders are different politically.

O’Rourke is more establishment-minded, promising to work with Republicans and appeal to past Donald Trump supporters. His message that relies more on optimism than specifics reminds some of Barack Obama’s 2008 pitch.

Sanders specializes in specificity, best illustrated by his “Medicare for All” health care plan, calls for $15 hourly minimum wage and proposals to shrink large investment banks.

“Blindly following Beto for his personality is a bad thing,” said Travis Clark, a 23-year-old University of Texas student who saw O’Rourke at a recent Austin rally but remains undecided. “You have to vote for the candidate for the right reasons, not just because you like them.”

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Associated Press writers Marc Levy in State College, Pa., and Clarice Silber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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Democrats piling up stats, enthusiasm

former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks during a stop at the Central Park Coffee Company in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

How many ways can you measure the first quarter of the year? For Democratic presidential candidates, it’s 300-plus events, 24 states and hundreds of voter questions.

The Iowa caucus is still 10 months away, but the Democratic primary campaign is already an all-out sprint — passing eye-popping markers for campaign activity and voter engagement. Voters in Florida and Ohio may not see it, but weekends in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — not to mention a handful of select states — are a blitz of candidate rallies and local meet-and-greets.

For some candidates the frenetic pace is the message, a way of casting themselves as tireless and willing to take every last question. Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke are trying to make an ambitious schedule and accessibility part of their brands, but Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand have done their parts to keep up with several dozen events each, most in early-voting states.

It’s far from clear that the candidate who holds the most events, whether leaping onto tables or addressing big rallies, will emerge as the candidate with the most votes. Still, Democrats watching the display from a distance say the engagement, the activity and the enthusiasm bode well.

“Broad picture: This is incredibly good for the Democratic Party,” said Jim Messina, who managed President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

The Democrats’ contested 2008 primary and the GOP’s packed 2016 field showed “that enthusiasm in primaries becomes very important in a general election,” Messina said. That’s because engaged backers are “more likely to do two things you need them to do” in order to win, he said: donate money and help persuade their social networks to vote.

For all the recent upheaval in politics, the 2020 campaign so far shows some things haven’t changed. Retail campaign stops are still essential to breaking through in early-voting states that will play a central role in choosing the nominee. They are, perhaps, even more important in the social media era. One live-streamed rally that goes viral on social media can reach more voters than dozens of smaller events.

Even though no one metric can predict success, a look at the campaigns’ tallies of on-the-ground engagement shows how the some busiest road warriors are faring at the end of the first quarter.

Warren and O’Rourke are logging mileage in areas their party hasn’t always traveled to early on and underscoring their appetite for grassroots interaction, a style Pete Buttigieg is also cultivating. Warren took more than 200 questions from voters and O’Rourke answered more than 350, according to their campaigns’ first-quarter estimates.

That’s a notable feat for O’Rourke, who only entered the race last month. The former Texas congressman has logged 55 first-quarter events in nine states where he publicly took voter questions, according to his campaign. Gillibrand held 59 public events in eight states since launching an exploratory committee in January, according to the New York senator’s campaign. Buttigieg has held 35 events in 11 states since the South Bend, Indiana, mayor started an exploratory committee that same month.

California Sen. Kamala Harris has emerged as a top-tier contender despite fewer public events than some opponents, clocking in with 26 public first-quarter events in eight states since launching her campaign in January, according to an AP estimate. Harris’ campaign said Monday night that she took more than 100 voter questions during first-quarter events, where total estimated turnout has topped 37,000.

Warren, a former law professor whose campaign is keeping detailed statistics, took questions at 48 events in 12 states over all three months, according to the Massachusetts senator’s campaign. Her aides measure her commitment to voter engagement partly in selfies — estimating that she’s taken more than 12,000 with voters so far. The tally of extra time after events is itself a strategic move, an argument that availability can win the day while other candidates spend time on the high-dollar fundraisers she’s sworn off.

Other Democrats are consciously mixing up their number and types of public events. Booker is holding a bigger kickoff of a national tour soon after holding smaller events. The New Jersey senator’s campaign estimates that he has held more than 50 public events in seven states since he jumped into the race in February.

A handful of other candidates have lagged behind in their total number of first-quarter events. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar logged 18 events in nine states since forming her campaign in February, according to an AP tally, with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee each holding 12 events. Former housing secretary Julian Castro has held more than a dozen of his own over the first quarter.

All of these candidates tend to fall behind Bernie Sanders in early polling of the Democratic field. Sanders, the runner-up in 2016, has held 17 major events in eight states and Washington, D.C., since declaring his candidacy in early March.

Not all of Sanders’ events — nor those of other candidates — feature the sort of real-time voter questions that are a fixture of Warren’s and O’Rourke’s appearances. But Sanders’ crowds illustrate his formidable ability to engage voters on his own terms: The Vermont senator’s campaign projects a total turnout of 74,000 people for all of his events so far.

President Donald Trump famously upended the traditional calculus of campaigning in 2016 by making fewer retail visits as he powered past more than a dozen GOP rivals. Whether anyone in the Democratic field can repeat that model remains to be seen.

“We want to fall in love like we did with Barack Obama,” Messina said of Democratic voters, “and to do that, you need to do the retail part of this.”

Several candidates have made a point of veering off the beaten track, hoping a stop outside the early states will earn them some extra media attention and voter good will.

O’Rourke crossed six states in one week on his post-announcement road trip. Warren has made unexpected trips to Puerto Rico and the Deep South, eager to find a way to set herself apart from the pack.

When the Massachusetts senator touted her “not traditional” choice to visit Alabama during a rally there last month, a voice from the audience chimed in to note that “Obama did it.”

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Associated Press writers Juana Summers in Washington; Will Weissert and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas; Sara Burnett in Chicago; Hunter Woodall in Berlin, New Hampshire; Nicholas Riccardi in Denver; and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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Trump, O’Rourke: So near, yet so far.

President Donald Trump is holding his first rally of the new year in El Paso, Texas on Monday.

It will be within shouting distance of where possible presidential candidate, former member of the House of Representatives, and the man who almost beat Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke, will be speaking as part of the March for Truth event just blocks away.

March officials said “We will unite to enjoy music, entertainment, and great company with the backdrop of our vibrant, multi-cultural region. We look forward to showcasing our local talent and creating a family-friendly event that El Paso will be proud to promote to the rest of America.. El Paso is a strong and safe community because of its people and its values. Border communities are a place of opportunity and hope. Trump’s fixation on a border wall and his distortions of life in El Paso and along the border are unacceptable. Our communities will always stand to include immigrants, oppose racism, and defend the truth. All of us must make a choice about whether we stand up for the truth or allow Trump to degrade our dignity and rights.”

Beto is a native of El Paso and not only did he represent them in the House of Representatives, he served on the El Paso City Council from 2005 to 2011.

Mayor Dee Margo: El Paso was NEVER one of the MOST dangerous cities in the US. We‘ve had a fence for 10 years and it has impacted illegal immigration and curbed criminal activity. It is NOT the sole deterrent. Law enforcement in our community continues to keep us safe #SOTU

Prior to his speech Beto O’Rourke will join a one-mile march from a local high school along the border, past the site of Trump’s event at the El Paso County Coliseum and ending at a sports center located across the street on the other side of a field from the coluseum where Trump will be speaking.

According to Mother Jones, O’Rourke’s counter-rally, The March for Truth, ending at the Chalio Acosta Sports Center where O’Rourke and others will speak and perform, was organized with dozens of community advocacy groups and partners, including Border Network for Human Rights and Women’s March El Paso. US Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democratic ally who won O’Rourke’s former seat in Congress last year, who will join the event. 60 local musicians including Fixed Idea, Radio La Chusma, Sinbuenos, and mariachis will perform on Monday evening at a “Celebration of El Paso” event at 7 p.m. local time — across the street from Trump’s rally and at the same time it is set to begin. The events will feature music and other speakers,. They are intended to highlight El Paso’s strength as a binational community — and push back against Trump’s long-sought border wall. (Alternet)

O’Rourke, who  famously was once part of a punk rock group, may play with some of the bands, thus cementing his creds with millennials. If you’ve just awakened from a coma, read Rolling Stone’s “Beto O’Rourke Shares the Story of His Old Band, Foss — and a Single.”

We know how Trump thrives on the adoration from his crowds, even if they are concoctions of his vivid self-aggrandizing imagination. He even just changed his Twitter image from one of him speaking at a campaign-style rally to him addressing the joint session of Congress for his State of the Union speech, hardly a venue filled with glassy-eyed MAGA-tized supporters.

The El Paso County Coliseum is a small venue as far as Texas stadiums go with seating for only 6,500 and (according to Wikipedia) was originally built for rodeos and livestock shows, but later expanded to cater other types of events. A variety of events that have been held at the Coliseum have included hockey, high school graduations, basketball, boxing, circuses, concerts, dog shows, flower shows, icecapades, roller derby, and more. It even was once used to house prisoners of war. This may prove to be its highest profile event yet filling its seats to the rafters. If not it will be a humiliation to the president if he can’t even find 6,500 hundred sycophants to waste their time listening to the same old same old presidential rants when they could be marching with Beto.

Let’s not forget that when he was running for Senate Beto O’Rourke, with a little help from fellow Texan Willie Nelson brought out a crowd of 50,000 at the “Vote Em Out” concert in Austin where the “Red Headed Stranger” wore a “Beto for Senate” t-shirt and sang “”If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out/That’s what election day is all about, and the biggest gun we’ve got is called the ballot box,”

Monday looks to be a lovely partly cloudy southern Texas day with temperatures in the mid-fifties. I know where I’ll be: at home watching the split screen battle of the band of bandits and the band of Beto which Mother Jones calls “a master class in trolling.”


From El Paso’s Spanish language newspaper online:

Chocarán línea dura republicana y visión pro inmigrante de Beto O’Rourke

El Paso, national battlefield:
Will hit Republican hard line and pro immigrant vision of Beto O’Rourke

Partial translated excerpt:

Will hit Republican hard line and pro immigrant vision of Beto O’Rourke

A national ideological battle will take place in El Paso on Monday afternoon during President Donald Trump’s visit to this city.

The president comes to El Paso accompanied by the toughest wing of the Republican Party: Vice President Mike Pence, Governor Greg Abbott, as well as Senator Ted Cruz.

Two visions of the United States will be seen face to face. On the one hand, the president of the United States will try to convince his base of the urgency of the border wall; on the other, Beto O’Rourke and activists will hold a march and a rally against the President.

“While some try to stoke fear and paranoia, spread lies and a false narrative about the US-Mexico border, and demand a 2,000 mile long wall at a record moment of safety, El Paso will join for a March and a celebration that highlights the truth, “O’Rourke said in a statement, in a veiled reference to Trump.


Related column 1/25/19:  Democrats should embrace open borders.

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